From The Toolroom To Ballrooms and Main Stages – An Interview w/ Mark Knight

*written by A’Damaged Pro for Electronica Life

How do you quantify being successful in the music industry? Is it measured by the company you keep or the circles you run in? Is it having an extensive list of chart-toppers under your belt? Is it wrecking shop on the main stage of countless festivals around the globe? Wherever you are presently, as an artist, you started somewhere else. As long as you have maintained a desire to continually evolve your craft, you are making progress.

Not every astronaut that has ever been to space has been to the moon, but they all have something in common. They all dreamed of seeing and experiencing something new, something into the beyond. If you allow me the freedom, I believe we can reach a parallel. In my mind, and I don’t think I’m alone on this, when an artist dreams of creating something new they are expanding their potential horizon of possibilities. The pivotal distinction is that the artist assumes the role as the astronaut and their music becomes the designated vessel for transport. Noted house music pioneer, Mark Knight, discusses: inspiration, technology, and the future of this “rocketship.”

A’Damaged Pro – Where did you grow up and do you think this had any influence on your attitude toward music?

Mark Knight – I grew up in Maidstone in Kent. Which  is a small town just outside London, but for some reason it punches above its weight when it comes to dance music, with Toolroom and Nic Fanciulli’s Saved both based here.  I trace this back to a guy called Disco Gary – he was this DJ in Maidstone in the late 80s who played early house music, amazing disco and soul, and I think he inspired a whole load of guys from the south east of England to make electronic music!

A’Damaged Pro – Did you play any instruments growing up?

Mark Knight – Growing up I played the drums – my Dad was actually a drummer in a band that was signed to Parlophone in the 1960s, so I guess it runs in the blood.

A’Damaged Pro – When did you first start Djing? What was your setup like?

Mark Knight – Like a lot of people, I had belt driven decks and a shit two channel mixer. Trying to mix properly on those things was an absolute nightmare, when you tried to adjust the record mix-mix it would be an absolutely catastrophe. But – learning on that equipment teaches you good habits, in some ways it’s a much better learning curve than going straight onto controllers like a lot of people do now.

A’Damaged Pro – What is the origin behind the name “Toolroom?”

Mark Knight – I often get asked the question, “Why did you call it Toolroom Records?” Well, this is the reason: the record label started up in the tool shed in my parents’ garden. I put all the money from the sale of my house into the shed to turn it into a studio. I had a desk, keyboard and decks, as well as a vocal booth in there where we had people like Jocelyn Brown putting vocals down in there. I think I was at my most creative then and it was the time I enjoyed making music the most. At that time, I was becoming more and more disappointed with the labels I was releasing on; I was forever chasing them, I wasn’t getting paid, the releases weren’t coming out on time, so I thought, ‘You know what? I can probably do this better myself.’ My brother Stuart was looking to change his career, so we thought this was the opportunity to forge a career out of something we love. Toolroom Records was born and continues to grow. We now have over 20 full time staff from our music team, A&Ring tracks and compiling albums, to our media team, designing artwork, video features, and handling our press and social media, to our publishing and licensing teams, making sure producers get paid.

A’Damaged Pro – What do you think has been the most important advance in technology for the progression of electronic music?

Mark Knight – Good question – for me, it would be the advent of digital sampling, which laid the foundation for the electronic music being created to this day. House music wouldn’t really be here without the sampling of disco loops and vocals.

A’Damaged Pro – If you hadn’t chosen a career in music, what do you think you would be doing now?

Mark Knight – Prior to music I was working as a cabler – I had the best boss in the world actually as he would let me get away with murder, I’d tell him I was off on a job somewhere when actually I’d be at my studio working on a bassline. Ever since I started producing back in the late 90s I’ve never really thought of anything else, so I struggle to picture what I’d be doing if it wasn’t this. Which makes me grateful for the career I’ve got now.

A’Damaged Pro – You have a new release out, called “The Return Of Wolfy.” Can you walk me through the creative process and tell me where you drew your inspiration from for this track?

Mark Knight – With Wolfy, I wanted to make a credible, main room record that would stand out in my sets. I feel this sound has been lost of late, with the two poles of dance music – underground and EDM – shifting further apart, leaving fewer quality big room tracks that sit in the middle. I wanted to inject some drama and momentum, so I wrote a simple but effective chord progression and build the track from there.

A’Damaged Pro – Any upcoming tours or residencies that you can talk about now?

Mark Knight – There’s so much going on this year for myself and Toolroom, but I can’t say much yet unfortunately – I can tell you we’ll be doing a 14 date residency in Ibiza (details to be announced very soon), plus I have a special tour planned at the end of the year, plus we’re relaunching Toolroom with a completely new look and feel too, with some very special shows planned. Watch this space!

A’Damaged Pro – If you could collaborate with one other musician throughout history, who would it be and why?

Mark Knight – There’s so many. I really love 80s soul – so it would probably be Raymond Calhoun from the Gap Band who wrote the incredible ‘Outstanding’ such a tune!

A’Damaged Pro – Any advice for aspiring producers or Djs? Are there a few whose stars you think are on the rise?

Mark Knight – For new producers and Djs – practice, practice, practice. I spent hours and hours in the studio learning my craft, and it benefitted in the long run. Don’t take the short cut. Stars on the rise – definitely Weiss. We signed him to Toolroom this year, he’s an incredible producer and we’re expecting big things from him.

A’Damaged Pro’s final words…

Refusing to let humble beginnings define the parameters of his potential future has proved to be an invaluable choice for Mark Knight. He is not only a man of vision but someone who was willing to chase his dreams down. Even with numerous accolades to his credit and countless headlining performances, he keeps pushing forward. New tracks, a fresh sound, and the where-with-all to coordinate with up-and-comers is definitely going to make this year interesting for Mark.

Connect with Mark Knight: Website | Facebook

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